Ratings Change: Arkansas Senate from Toss-up/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican

Stuart Rothenberg October 13, 2014 · 8:33 AM EDT

Arkansas Senate polls released by Democrats and one media outlet suggest that incumbent Senator Mark Pryor leads GOP challenger Rep. Tom Cotton by a couple of percentage points. But most surveys – both public and unreleased – suggest Cotton holds a modest but stable mid-single digit lead in the contest.

Someone is off-base here, and a cautious approach would lead us to leaving the race in one of our toss-up categories. But given the national dynamics, Pryor’s recent stumble in answering a question on President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola crisis, and the weight of the polling data that we have seen, we remain deeply skeptical about Pryor’s prospects – so skeptical that we are moving the race to Lean Republican.

The 2014 election has turned into a classic midterm election with an unpopular president in the White House. Republicans across the country will be airing TV ads featuring Obama saying that while he is not on the ballot his policies are. That will make it more difficult for Democrats in Red states and Red districts to distance themselves from the president and localize their races.

Obama’s unpopularity in Arkansas is likely to drive the Senate race in the final weeks, and that can only help Cotton. While we don’t yet think this race is “over,” we think that the challenger now has a clear advantage. We no longer see this race as a Toss-up.